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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Besoeki

A residency of the former Dutch East Indies--now Indonesia. It was located in eastern Java.

(ScStr: dp. 8,414; l. 358'; b. 44.5'; dr. 24'4" (mean); dph. 28.5'; s. 9 k.; cpl. 56; a. 1 5", 1 3")

The steel-hulled, single-screw steamer Besoeki--built in 1901 at Hamburg, Germany, by Blohm & Voss and owned by the Dutch firm of Rotterdam Lloyd--was taken over by the United States government on 7 March 1918; inspected and taken over by the Navy on 1 April 1918; designated Id. No. 2534; and commissioned on 2 April 1918 at New York, Lt. Comdr. Thomas Hillgrove, USNRF, in command. .


Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) as a depot collier, Besoeki took on cargo and sailed for Hampton Roads on 28 April to join a Britain-bound convoy. Detached from the convoy on 20 May, Besoeki, shepherded by two destroyers, reached Queenstown on the 21st. Assisted by a working party from Melville (Destroyer Tender No. 2), she unloaded depth charges and 5 inch ammunition and lingered until mid-June. Sailing on the 13th under the protection of Stockton (Destroyer No. 73), Besoeki headed for Holyhead Island, Wales. Joined en route by Ammen (Destroyer No. 35), she reached her destination the next morning. From there, she continued on to Glasgow, Scotland, on the 15th to take on coal and ballast. After the Glasgow stop, she stood down the Clyde on the 21st, picked up a convoy at Lamlash Harbor, and sailed for the United States on 28 June.


After reaching New York on 13 July, Besoeki remained there for almost two weeks before sailing to Philadelphia. Taking on a partial cargo at that port, the ship proceeded to Hampton Roads and reached the Norfolk Navy Yard on 5 August. While there, Besoeki received her armament. Besoeki got underway on 22 August and joined a convoy bound for Europe.


The ship reached the coast of France on 11 September and, after two days at anchor in Quiberon Bay, ascended the Gironde River to Verdon-sur-Mer, where she anchored on the 14th. Five days later, she moved to Paulliac and remained there, discharging her cargo until 3 October.


Finally clearing Paulliac on the 6th, Besoeki tarried briefly at Verdon-sur-Mer before leaving the French coast on the 8th. She reached New York shortly before midnight on 24 October and loaded a cargo of Army stores and “aeroplane” parts. Sailing for Norfolk on 5 November, the ship entered Hampton Roads late the next day and joined another outward bound convoy. She put to sea with that convoy on the 10th; but, at 1248 on 11 November 1918, Besoeki received a signal from her ocean escort announcing the Armistice.


Beset by bad weather throughout the passage, the steamer made port at Plymouth on the 26th, shifted to Devonport on the 30th, and unloaded material consigned to the Naval Aviation Repair Base, Eastleigh. After taking on board a return cargo, she departed Southampton on 30 December, dumping drums of mustard gas at sea before arriving at Hampton Roads on 2Z January 1919. After discharging her cargo at Norfolk, the ship headed north, arriving at New York on 31 January.


There, Besoeki unloaded her remaining cargo before moving to Jersey City where she took on board a cargo of foodstuffs. On 26 February, the cargoman set sail for Denmark. She reached Copenhagen on 18 March and discharged her cargo. Underway again on the 29th, she sailed via the Kiel Canal to Plymouth, England. Coaling there for the voyage to the United States, she sailed for New York.


Besoeki anchored off Tompkinsville on 26 April and received voyage repairs before taking on her last cargo as a NOTS vessel. She sailed for European waters on 15 May, reached Rotterdam in Holland on 1 June, and discharged cargo. She was decommissioned at Rotterdam on 14 June 1919 and returned to her owner. Her name was struck from the Navy list simultaneously.


The ship saw merchant service under the Dutch and Italian flags until 1930.

Robert J. Cressman



15 February 2006